“Welcome…this is my office,” says Chef Gary Wood pointing to the lively kitchen inside Ernie’s Italian Chophouse located in Lighthouse Point. The chef’s warm, wide grin and cheerful approach translates through the evening as he cares for every plate that passes from his hands on the cooking line to the dining area. Schooled at the Florida Culinary Institute, mentored and cheffed locally at 32 East, Aura and Max’s Grille, he approaches the menu offerings in a wonderfully minimalistic style. “We use only a few ingredients and allow the true flavor of the food to be present,” the chef shares. This minimalistic method of preparing the small and main plates allows a bona fide Italian experience.

There is an unpretentious ambiance at Ernie’s. The lounge is lit with soft blue lights that provide a serene feeling from the moment you arrive. The hallway leading to the dining area is white brick and the windows are frosted. Ernie Patti, the owner, greets the regulars and new diners as they enter and you may find him escorting your party to the dining area. The interior of the restaurant translates a South Beach style vibe.

I’m not sure about you but reviewing the menu at an Italian chophouse is always daunting for me. I want to taste everything, especially the unique offerings and the classics. The list of options to try at Ernie’s is not overwhelming. There are a variety of wonderful specials prepared by the chef with a new twist.  “Laughing and sharing each other’s choices is highly encouraged,” Chef Wood says with a big grin.

The Eggplant Stack is a classic and a “must have!” It is breaded and lightly fried, with sliced vine ripened tomato, house made mozzarella cheese and balsamic syrup decorates the plate.  Wonderful! There’s very little sauce therefore you truly taste the crispy eggplant.

The grilled Octopus is flown in from Spain; the full arm is served with cannellini beans, baby arugula and warm limoncello vinaigrette. This is delectable! Don’t miss trying this if you enjoy Octopus. The veal meatballs are served over a mixed green salad and a side of fresh ricotta cheese that is to die for.

Original pasta dishes are offered at Ernie’s Italian Chophouse and they are special. Straw & Hay will tempt your palate and is rather rich but worth the calories. This spinach and egg noodle dish with pancetta, onions, peas and a prosecco cream sauce is outrageous! There will be nothing left in your bowl…that’s a promise. And, Black Fettuccine with shrimp, jumbo lump crab, white wine with shallots and toasted bread crumbs is extraordinary. Live a little!

The chicken scarpariello for two is a roasted chicken on the bone, cut up and served with sweet Italian sausage and peppers. The agredolce sauce , a traditional red wine vinegar reduction, with fresh rosemary and the flash-fried brined chicken can be made for one as well. Unbelievably delicious.

Chef Wood will be delighted to prepare your steak “ordered to style.” The 14 ounce Ribeye is aged 21 days to maximize tenderness and enhance flavor, has a buttery marble and can be ordered rare plus or tar tar with an egg on top if that is your fancy. There is no need for special or extra sauces on a steak when it is prepared that perfect.

A few special sides that you may want to try include the cavatelli with garlic, fontina and parsley. This version of mac and cheese is prepared risotto-style, fresh to order and is made with heavy cream. It’s wonderful! The sautéed brussel sprouts with butter and thyme are also flavorsome. Other sides include truffle parmesan fries, beer battered onion rings, whipped sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe. All delicious!

No dinner is complete without something sweet, wouldn’t you agree?

Desserts are made fresh and include, but are not limited to, bread pudding, sorbet, gelato and cannoli.

The cheesecake is made with four pounds of cheese but is light and delicious resembling a soufflé.  Satiated is the word that comes to mind when you have completed your dining experience. That is a wonderful feeling!

Whether you are a gourmet food lover or someone who enjoys a more simple approach, Ernie’s Italian Chophouse offers a variety of fantastic choices to experience. Wines are served by the bottle or glass, little bottles of bubbles and a full bar are also available.

For more information:

Ernie’s Italian Chophouse

3150 N. Federal Highway
Lighthouse Point

954-781-0910

ErniesItalianChophouse.com

Cuisine: Italian

Cost: Moderate-expensive

Hours: Dinner daily

Reservations: Suggested

Recipe

Ingredients

1 3- 31/2 lb. chicken
2 large red peppers
4 oz. Italian long hot peppers
4-6 oz.  Italian sausage
6-8 oz. Agrodolce sauce

For the Brine

1 gallon of water
1 cup Kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. Whole black pepper corn toasted
4 rosemary sprigs

Directions

  1. In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients for the brine. Bring the mixture to a boil until salt and sugar have completely dissolved; allow to cool. Cut and divide chicken into ten pieces and submerge each piece into brine for at least 3-4 hours in a refrigerator. Remove chicken from brine, pat dry with paper towel and set aside and allow to come to room temperature.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove all seeds from peppers and dice. In a mixing bowl, combine peppers with oil, salt and pepper. Place peppers on an oven pan and roast in the oven until the peppers are slightly tender, approximately ten minutes.
  3. Roast or grill sausage until cooked. Reserve.
  4. In a deep fryer with oil at 375 degrees, carefully fry chicken until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate.

Agrodolce Sauce

Ingredients/ Directions

1 cup red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 shallots, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in saucepot and cook at medium to medium- high heat. Reduce to half for a syrup like consistency. Strain and set aside.
  2. Take all components and mix together in a stainless steel bowl. Arrange on a large platter. Garnish with fresh rosemary and Italian parsley.